Tommy Guns and Moonshine with Hickok45

This particular post need very little in the way of a lead. That’s because it’s not only a post showing one of Hickok45’s better videos but one featuring my personal top wish-list firearm, the Thompson Submachine Gun. Tommy guns were designed in 1917 by General John T. Thompson who hoped to create a gun capable of replacing the bolt-actions in service at the time. The story of the gun’s creation is actually pretty interesting, but most people think of the Tommy gun in one particular way: as a mobster gun. Tommy guns have become the guns of a bygone era, one of gangsters, full-auto rifles, and moonshine. Hickok45 captures those things in his own way in the following video. If you are a fan of this gun, odds are good you’ll enjoy this video. One of these days I’ll get my hands on a Tommy gun…one of these days (to keep, not just to shoot). Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Visit Hickok45’s YouTube channel at

Visit the official website for Auto-Ordnance, the company behind the original Tommy gun, at

TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.


  • iksnilol

    Moonshine and machineguns sounds like one of those fun things you shouldn’t endorse.

    • Joe

      Or the BATF’s original name before they decided to class it up.

  • Hermann Göring

    MP40 was a better SMG- just saying’

    • Blake

      True fact. Alex made several videos basically proving that (if nothing else, he proved beyond all reasonable doubt that you would much rather be dragging around an MP40 than a super-heavy Thompson). We’ll miss him!

      Pro tip: if you want people to vote you up, don’t use the #2 guy in the 3rd reich for your profile.

      (yes, I know, WWI hero, military strategist, pretty smart dude, etc. etc. etc. Still a convicted war criminal above all…)

      • Hermann Göring

        Thanks- I didn’t even know who the guy was when I set up my Disqus account

    • Georgiaboy61

      Re: “MP40 was a better SMG- just saying'”
      Many firearms and military historians might agree with you that the MP38/40 was a more-influential SMG, but “better”? That’s a different story – and one guaranteed to start a furious debate with any WWII-Korean-Vietnam War era GI or Marine.

      The Thompson is a superb piece of engineering and a relic of the now bygone era when things were built to last. No short-cuts such as cheap plastics, sheet-metal stampings or tack welds here – just painstaking machine work, often from solid billet steel. Why is the Thompson so heavy? Part of the reason is that they were over-engineered and built like tanks. They were extremely durable, and could take a pounding and keep on working.

      In addition to the weight and complexity/expense of the design, the Thompson was also sometimes faulted for its extremely high rate of fire, and the difficulty of controlling muzzle climb. These criticisms, while valid-enough, were often handled by better training. The key to successful employment of a Thompson was to use short, controlled bursts – and not try to empty the magazine or drum with one trigger pull. This allows the weapon to cool, which enhances reliability, and also aids in keeping the muzzle on target instead of aimed at the moon.

      The .45 Auto is justifiably famous as a man-stopper and fight-ender. Those 230-grain slugs saved many a grunt’s bacon in combat. The Thompson was especially prized for jungle warfare and urban fighting, where its virtues shone brightest. The SMG was also good at turning cover into concealment; i.e., reliably penetrating walls, thick clothing and heavy vegetation.

      The M3 Grease Gun, which replaced the Thompson, also fired the .45 Auto 230-grain slug, but the similarities pretty much ended there. The M3 had more in common with the British Sten upon which it was based, than the Thompson.
      As a military historian, I am fortunate-enough to know a number of combat veterans of past wars, including GIs who fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. It could be faulty memory, but I cannot recall anyone ever bad-mouthing the Thompson. In fact, the most-common thing I recall was guys saying that they wished they’d been issued one.

      The MP38/40 was a superb weapon, and since the 9mm Parabellum is significantly lighter than the .45 Auto, a soldier could carry more rounds in his basic ammo load. However, since the 9mm Parabellum FMJ isn’t as potent a fight-stopper as the .45, that advantage may be moot if it takes more rds. of 9mm to put your adversary out of the fight.

      I’ve been fortunate-enough to try almost all of the SMGs of the WWII-Korean War era (Las Vegas is a great town, isn’t it?), including a comparison with the Thompson and MP38/40 and the Sten. My preference was for the Thompson, then the MP38/40 and then the Sten. The Sten I used was a broken-down wreck and jammed almost immediately, but both of the others performed great. My guide/supervisor, a young guy and an Army combat veteran, said if he’d been offered a choice between an M4 and a Thompson, he’d have chosen the older design without hesitation. I’d have to agree. Just my two cents, though….

      Did you know that the Thompson was originally marketed by Auto-Ordnance to civilians as well as to soldiers? Vintage ads showed cowboys on horseback with them. Before the National Firearms Act of 1934, a Thompson could be purchased at many hardware stores. That was a different era, without question!

      • retfed

        A couple comments about the Thompson:
        I only ever fired one, an M1 (WWII) model, and didn’t find the muzzle climb to be too bad. But like I said, I only fired one once.
        My late father, when he was going through USN basic training at Great Lakes in WWII, was taught to unhook the sling from the buttstock and step on it to keep the muzzle from climbing. They actually referred to the Thompson sling as a “step strap.”
        Back in the 80s a few of us were discussing entry guns. At the time I was a big fan of the MP5. A retired Chicago copper in the group praised the short shotgun. The only WWII vet in the group, an Army veteran of the Pacific, said he liked the Thompson because it was “great for knocking Japs out of trees.” And he wasn’t kidding.

      • Alex A.

        I have to agree, retfed. I’ve also fired the M1 Thompson, putting about 350 rounds through the gun I shot. The muzzle climb required practically no effort to manage, provided I used the proper technique. That is as follows: lean forward at the waist aggressively, use your left hand (assuming you are a right-handed shooter) only to support the gun, pull the gun in tight to your shoulder and control the climb with the right hand, and maintain a good cheek weld with the buttstock. In this manner, I was able to put a burst of 20 rounds into the center of the target twice from 60 feet by the end of my shooting session.

    • iggy

      And the Beretta 1938 (ask the Fallschirmjäger) and the PPSh 41 (cheap, nasty and works) are both better guns than the MP40.
      And the Owen towers on a pinnacle above all others (and could theoretically be built in pretty much any pistol cartridge you wanted, just read the story of prototype approval)… I may have bias though :P.

      • Hermann Göring


  • HH

    just received my stamp for my West Hurley model 1928 Tommy. Havent had a chance to shoot it yet. I look fwd to this weekend. Set me back about $18k

    • Dougscamo

      YAY….for getting a Thompson…..OUCH….for 18K….

  • Dougscamo

    Just sayin….there are a lot of WWII vets that would take great offense at your remark that it symbolizes a mobster’s weapon….though I doubt if there are too many on this blog. More’s the pity….

    The US military probably acquired more of these than the civilian market (when they were sold to the civilian market) than one can dream of…and I’m sure that there are readers that can give near exact figures of military production….

  • jerry young

    I’ve always wanted a Tommy gun but even paying $2000 for a knock off is a little steep and it’s not the same as an original but one day maybe I keep putting jabs in what asked what I want for Christmas I have my eyes on one that comes with both the stick and drum magazines in a violin case, my favorite picture is of Winston Churchill holding a Tommy gun

    • Bob

      I had a semi auto thompson that I bought years ago. It was a CLUB. It had like a 22 pound lawyer trigger, and the stock was way to long length of pull. If you were 6 foot 8 and had a 40 inch sleeve you might be able to shoulder it without hitting yourself in the armpit. It was also HEAVY and you NEEDED TOOLS to take it apart to clean it. It was not an easy weapon to clean.
      I sold it about 2 years ago for 1300 bucks. with the original 30 round stick and 50 round drum magazines, 3 GI magazines that were converted to work in the semi auto version, and of course a guitar case.
      If you want FULL AUTO fun in 45 caliber, buy a SPITFIRE. it is an open bolt weapon and some of them even have a GI GREASE GUN bolt in them. They are 4 grand and up. Of course, you have to fill out the FEDERAL paper work and pay the $200 tax stamp, get finger printed. IT took me about 7 months to get it done.

  • Sammy B

    One of my best gun-memories was the Dallas Market Center Gun Show of maybe 1977. A private collector was displaying his collection of 1920’s civilian-era Thompson’s that had been presented to police departments all over the country. Gorgeous wood break-open boxes, fitted and velvet lined, containing one or two Thompson’s, a variety of magazines and drums, and a brass plate showing the police department and the date. Maybe 20 or 25 sets, and most appeared new and unused. Kudos to that guy – what a collection!